After you have been on a strict diet for long, there might be times when your body will get accustomed to the kind of food you have been eating and might feel the need for a change.
In such cases, bodybuilders or people who resort to strict diets, might have to plan a refeed day.
The main reason why people steer clear of consuming huge amounts of calories is to lose weight.
However, this comes at a cost as a few negative side effects such as fatigued nervous system, lower levels of hormone, lethargy, etc.
To combat all this, a well planned and controlled calorie consumption is arranged for a day to make up for the calorie deficit.
However, a refeed day does not mean consuming calories haphazardly, but in a planned manner so that there is a limit to the kind of food that one consumes and the body reaps the most benefit out of it.
What is a refeed day?
A refeed day refers to a day on which an individual increases the calorie intake after being on a calorie strict diet for a long time.
The idea behind having a refeed day is mitigating the ill-effects that might arise due to the cutting short of calorie consumption in one’s diet. This may be low levels of hormones, tiredness, increased hunger, etc.
If you are into bodybuilding, you should not mistake a refeed day for a cheat day. On cheat days, an individual eats in an unplanned and uncontrolled manner. There is no limitation on the kind of food that one consumes on a cheat day.
On the other hand, this does not happen on a refeed day. A refeed day involves a lot of planning and controlled eating. Unlike what one does on a cheat day, on a refeed day, the calorie intake is planned and limited. The kind of food is also taken into consideration.
On refeed days, calories are taken mostly from carbs as compared to protein and fats. Refeed days plans can also vary from individual to individual, the main goal being calorie intake in a restricted and controlled way to benefit the body.
In simple words, you can call it a temporary break from restriction in your eating habits. Although you overeat, your focus is to derive the calories from carbs.
How does refeed day work?
If you are wondering how this temporary intake of surplus calories will help your body, here is how. The main reason why many individuals have to resort to a refeed day is to address a major problem that most people face while addressing a weight loss problem- a slowed down weight loss process.
When you start to restrict the calorie intake of your body, it experiences some hormonal changes as well which signal your body that there is a deficiency of calorie. This way, your body will start to look for ways to reduce it so as to limit the loss of weight. As a result, your weight loss process becomes stagnant.
This mainly happens because your body starts experiencing a deficiency of the hormone “leptin.”
Leptin is a kind of fat cell that signals the body that the body has adequate fat stores. This enables regulation of appetite and encourages burning of calories.
When your body has low levels of leptin, your brain receives signals that there is calorie deprivation in your body and you need to consume more calories. This procedure is termed as adaptive thermogenesis.
Benefits of Refeed Day
Listed below are some of the benefits that your body reaps from having refeed days at certain intervals.
The fat loss plateaus have to be broken through
When your body is exposed to a prolonged period of eating less calories, your body may get accustomed that way and the process of fat loss will be restricted.
When you increase the Leptin level in your body on a refeed day through food manipulation, your body signals and no longer resists the process of fat loss.
You do not experience cravings and your mental health gets better
When you consume lots of calories, the leptin levels in your body start increasing. As a result, your body no longer receives signals for craving food.
As a result, your appetite will get suppressed and you will no longer suffer from unhealthy cravings. This will also result in an improved mental health!
Better physical strength
The sudden gush of calories that your body is introduced to will unleash a new source of energy in you. Therefore, you should be able to lift weights better.
An increase in muscularity
The energy that you derive from the extra calories that you consume on a refeed day is converted to glycogen and is stored in the muscles.
This increases the amount of sarcoplasmic fluid around your muscle fibres and results in an increased muscle size.
This is the reason why bodybuilders prefer eating before a competition day. It makes them look massive, pumped up, and full.
Drawbacks of Refeed Day
There are also some drawbacks of refeed day. Despite all the potential benefits of your sudden calorie intake, you also need to take these drawbacks into consideration.
Proper research may not be done
Although the concept of refeed days is very popular, there is a lack of adequate research on the topic.
Apart from that, the human body is extremely sophisticated. It can easily adapt to the changes that you make in your diet. When you bring about changes in your diet, your metabolism is not likely to experience changes that might last.
How your body responds to the changes in the calorie intake is also dependent on the age and genetics of the individual.
Just like you have to restrict your calorie intake for many days to make your leptin levels decrease, it may also take more than one day for the leptin levels to increase so much as to support weight loss.
One may go overboard with the calorie intake
Despite planning your day thoroughly, you might have a hard time putting a leash on your intake once you start consuming your calories. It is possible that you experience strong cravings and they override your good intentions.
Therefore, it is ideally suggested that you restrict your calorie deficit plan to not more than 500 calories deficiency per day. Although this way your weight loss may take longer, you can remain assured that you are less likely to regain weight in the longer run.
May create a distorted relationship with food
When you maintain a certain kind of diet, it comes with the fear of impacting your relationship with food negatively.
When there are restrictions imposed on the consumption of certain kinds of food, there is an increased sense of fear and stress surrounding the calories and the food intake. This leads to distorted behaviours and thoughts surrounding the food habits.
If you have already experienced this kind of distorted eating, it would be best to avoid refeed days.
Do refeed days boost metabolism?
When you are on a weight loss regime, the cleanest shift is to reduce your calorie intake and force your leptin levels to come down.
When you introduce a refeed day per week, it is a deliberate attempt to increase the level of leptin in your body by increasing the amount of calorie consumption.
This, in turn, allows the fat-burning process of your body to function more efficiently! So yes, it can be said that refeed days help to boost your metabolism.
How do you know you need a refeed day?
Most people do not realize when they need to refeed. Here are a few signs that are a clear indication that your body requires refeeding. Read on to find out:
Stalled body progress
When your body progress doesn’t seem to have changed in a couple of weeks, this might be an indication that you need to change the pattern of calorie intake in your body.
By including refeed days, you speed up the metabolism. It also serves as a reassurance to the body.
Frequent hunger pangs
When your body craves extra food even after you have had your meal, it’s time you realize that your body is asking for something extra.
In such cases, it would be best to boost the levels of leptin in the body. Leptin signals the brain that the body is satisfied with the food intake and does not require any more food. This way, incorporating a refeed day can help to keep unhealthy hunger pangs at bay!
Low levels of energy
If your body lacks energy, you might be in dire need of a refeed day. Sometimes, performing even the simplest of exercises can make you feel fatigued.
Refeeding boosts the level of carbohydrate intake in the body and leads to an increase in the level of leptin in the body. This provides our body with the required amount of energy and makes sure that we do not feel drained all the time.
How often should you have a refeed day?
If you are planning to incorporate a refeed day in your diet plan, make sure that you figure it out well so that you do not indulge in overeating. Based on the requirements of your body, you need to plan your refeed accordingly.
In general, most people who try to restrict their calorie intake otherwise, should include a refeed day once in a couple of weeks.
However, your refeed plan depends on the percentage of body fat you have and your fitness goals.
Those who have a low percentage of body fat may need to incorporate more refeed days as compared to those who have a higher body fat percentage.
- Study shows that men, who have a body fat percentage of 10% or more than that should try to incorporate refeeding once in two weeks. Those who have a body fat percentage lower than that should try refeeding a couple times a week.
- For women, a body fat percentage of 20% or more calls for refeeding once in two weeks and those who have body fat percentage between 15-20% should consider refeeding 1-2 times every week.
How to structure a refeed day?
There is no official guideline on how to structure your refeed day. Nevertheless, the aim should be to boost the amount of calorie intake by 20-30%.
For instance, if your normal is consuming approximately 2,000 calories each day, you should try to consume additional 400-600 calories in addition to the 2,000 calories on your refeed day.
Your refeed day should be scheduled based on your body fat percentage.
How many calories should I eat on a refeed day?
The main aim of including a refeed day in your diet is to add to the amount of calories you consume normally and boost the level of leptin in your body.
It is ideally considered healthy to consume 20-30% more calories on a refeed day than you do on a normal day.
How many carbs should you eat on a refeed day?
Your refeed day should not be your cheat day. Your motive should be to ensure the consumption of carbohydrates. 1 gram of carbohydrate consists of nearly 4 calories. Carbs are a good source of energy and are, therefore, an essential macronutrient.
It is ideally suggested that while planning your refeed diet, try to keep the percentage of carbohydrate consumption to 30% while the percentage of protein and fat should be 50% and 20% respectively.
To sum things up, it can be said that refeeding is a great way in which you can boost your metabolism and burn fat after a prolonged period of consuming limited amounts of calories.
Nevertheless, the requirements vary from individual to individual. Incorporating such mindful eating practices in your diet can prove to be effective and deliver great results. Therefore, consult your dietitian and seek help accordingly.